Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away--Part II

 "...shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?"
Job 2:10
The night of Dave's home coming, when the tears were still wet and my heart was so heavy....the phone rang. It was 10pm-- a time when my phone has usually silenced. I saw the name of our social worker appear on the caller i.d. and I knew. She had a referral for us. For months now we had been dreaming about the faceless child in China who we believed God had chosen for us. We'd worked tirelessly on paperwork (still are!), paid thousands in fees, and had our hearts kicked around all to culimate in the actual matching of child with family. Was it really happening now? This isn't how I pictured it. I could barely grip any threads of happiness to hoist up and place in my voice. I just stared at the phone. But I answered, didn't I? Of course. And I heard those words: "we have a little boy for you." In that moment it was possible for grief and joy to coexist. I wanted to know about that boy. Our boy?
We talked for a few moments and she then said she would email the photos and medical information for us to review and we had 48 hours to decide, act, and committ. I'd like to say that I patiently downloaded the narrative first to read about who this child is and what he's been through. But, I wanted to see his face and when that picture appeared on the screen my tears transformed and we both wept for joy.
 He is the sweetest little child you have ever seen. Big brown eyes. Beautiful dark hair and eyebrows. Pensive mouth. He's 15 months old with a diagnosis of mild cerebral palsy. To us, he's just perfect. He IS our boy.
 The next few days were spent in high-intensity fury as we gathered the neccessary documents to secure his adoption to us. It was secured the day we buried Dave's earthly body. Why connect such a joyous event to such a grievous one? Well, the buds push through near winter's end don't they? God reminded us of his faithfulness. God reminded us that He does know exactly what he's doing. He gives gifts even amidst times of sorrow. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
So now the journey continues. More paperwork. More money. More waiting. But at the end of it all, there's a face to this gift and God's promises stand all along the way. The master called a life in and sent forth a life all in the same day. We serve a mighty God whose ways can never be understood. Praise be for that.

The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away--Part I

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."
Job 1:21 

The past few weeks have been some of the hardest on the calendar. Our small congregation has lost four church members in three weeks....and it hurts. It really hurts. One of those dear people suddenly called to his Father's side was our friend, Dave Hudson. He was a sweet and gentle man who was deliberate in what he said, and intentional in what he did. As someone who can be so flippant in both word and deed, these were characteristics I so admired about Dave for it takes a tremendous amount of godliness and self-control.
Of course, Dave was a very godly man. We've known this family for about eight years, but the past few he and his wife (Claire) have sat at our dining room table nearly every Sunday evening. We've enjoyed fellowship with him as we shared a meal, studied God's word, and prayed. Everything he said and did was infused with a deep passion for the Lord which he wore on his face through his vibrant smile. I respected him and loved him.
So the day he met Jesus had more sorrow for me than it should have. It seemed that the joy of knowing he was safe in the Savior's presence was clouded by the grief of knowing his wife was broken hearted, his girls had lost their hero father, and our church had lost an elder, a teacher, a brother, a friend. There's that minute (or, more truthfully, sometimes longer than a minute) when you really wonder if God knew what he was doing when he took his servant home. What about those of us left behind?
I carried those thoughts around that first day as a I struggled to believe the reality of the matter. And then I thought of Job. Divinely, it was the book of Job that our group had decided to begin studying exactly one week before Dave's passing. The Lord knew. Now Job lost all of his children and upon hearing this he displayed all the expressions of grief. Isn't it wonderful that we have freedom to grieve? We can cry. We can pound our fists. We can ache from the very depths of our souls...freely. HOWEVER, Job also worshipped the Lord. He blessed the name of Jehovah. He submitted. He did not curse him or shout hasty words against God. He submitted and worshipped, knowing that God wills trials for his own reasons and believers are to trust.
 I'm clinging to that and his family is too. We will grieve knowing that tomorrow night he's not coming. His space will be empty. But instead of supping with us, He's supping at the ultimate table. He has seen Jesus, and that, my friends, takes my breath away.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Meet The Teacher Day and the Back to School Blues.

  Lunches are packed. Uniforms are pressed. Their backpacks are hanging up in the kitchen. I think we're finally ready for tomorrow. Physically. Emotionally? Not so much. We've had a wonderful summer of letting each day take us where it wanted to. It's been a stay in your pjs until nine kind of summer. It's been an ice cream before supper kind of summer. Now it's over. Sure there were days when I thought about calling the principal and seeing if she'd open up school just for my kids, but those days were rare. We really just loved being together and it's going to be hard to get back into the routine of getting up early, doing homework, and living for those weekends.
   It helps that the girls are super excited about school this year. Grace has finally arrived at kindergarten and she burst through the doors of school this morning like a little hurricane. She met her teacher and got to put her supplies in her desk. I think she squealed at least one hundred times. She's going to be a teacher's dream. She's very compliant, loves to help, and gets excited by everything. However, I've got money riding on tears this year. Heck, I've got money riding on tears tomorrow! She gets weepy saying goodbye to me and the first sign of discipline, the water works are going to flow. God bless her tender heart, though. It's one of the things I love most about her. My prayer for Grace is that she'll stand on her own with confidence, realizing that she doesn't have to please everyone. She just has to be Grace Perry.



Molly starts second grade tomorrow and she is very excited about the content this year. She gets to study rocks and minerals and she's a regular gemologist. We have books on the subject! She has a rock collection. She loves science, math, and history (what????) and tolerates reading (I need my heart meds). She's Brent Cobb shrunken down with bigger hair. Teachers love her exuberance. Her eyes dance at new concepts, but she's a head-strong little thing. My prayer for this year is that her heart will yield a little and that she'll accept my help, and my guidance. Both of us not crying during homework would be a plus too. Believe it or not, at seven, she does not know everything.


I'm excited about a new year too. I love the girls' teachers and it seems like they both have really sweet classmates. I always have lofty goals for the school year. Here are just a few.
1. I will NOT peel through the school parking lot at 7:55am and throw Molly and Grace at the front door.
2. I will only wear my "dress sweats" once a week.
3. I will pack the girls a healthy, nutritious snack .....sometimes. Are Swiss Cake Rolls nutritious?
4. Breakfast will be eaten at the table and not in the back of the mini-van.
5. I will read every school email and not claim that my "internet was down" when it's an email that asks me to do something.
6. I will not harbor ill thoughts towards the moms that volunteer for everything, bake their teachers fresh goodies, and scrapbook the entire school year.
7. I will not stab my eyes out with a pencil (no. 2 ofcourse) during homework time.
8. I will not roll my eyes when people see the girls in uniform and ask if we go to a Catholic school.
9. I will appear smarter than my children.
10.  I will remember that I am 33 and Molly is 7--not the other way around.

These are good goals, don't you think? I do have serious goals too like memorizing scripture with the children and praying for them more regularly throughout the day. I want to have more patience with them when doing homework. I need to remember G-R-A-C-E.  I receive it. I need to extend more of it.
  I'll be sure to post pictures tomorrow of the big first day. I know grandparents will be logging on if no one else :) Kiss your little ones tonight as you tuck them in bed. Thank God for His mercies and for fresh beginnings each day. Pray for your child's teacher. Sleep well knowing that our efforts are naught and He is everything.



Saturday, August 13, 2011

Camp!

The first day of camp was kind of like my first day of kindergarten. Would they like me? Would I make friends? I WANT MY MOM!
I was nervous because I realized how totally inadequate I was to be doing what I was doing! However, I had prepared and now I needed the Holy Spirit to show up and take over. He was faithful to do just that. He helped me through that first day of teaching and a tremendous sigh of relief could be heard throughout the Czech Republic!


Here I am with my class. We had so much fun together!
 The lovable Sid Anderson was my translator. How I adore his dancing eyebrows and his sweet face which shines with the love of Jesus. He and his charming wife, Louise, have been serving with MTW in the Czech Republic for some eighteen years now. They love this country and they love the people. When they first arrived, Sid set out to demonstrate his love for the Czech people in the best way he knew how--by learning their language. He studied so hard to master the second most difficult language in the world (I believe Mandarin is only slightly harder?) The people have so much respect for him and say that his grammar is perfect which is just unbelievable. So I had an American translator speaking Czech and translating my English. Does that seem weird to anyone other than me? Sometimes Sid got so caught up in the class that he'd forget to translate their conversation to me. Other times, he'd turn to me and repeat it in Czech! Language camp does funny things to you! We had a wonderful week together. We felt like family--that's what the bond of Christ does. You have instant family all over the world.

 

Sid and Louise are set to leave Czech next year and return to their home state of Virginia. Sid hopes to continue building radio stations in Africa which will send the gospel message out over the air. He's a quiet genius.



Louise is a spunky, energetic little lady! We discovered a mutual LOVE of office supplies and stationary. Two women should not get so overjoyed about laminators and staplers. We could do some serious damage at Staples.


I also got to spend time with Hans and Gretchen, another amazing MTW couple who have been in Czech about eight years and are also set to leave next year and head home. Gretchen and I hit it off immediately. She has a quiet spirit, but is laugh-out-loud funny She can "pun" you death....and it's adorable. Hans has a demeanor which is just humble and kind. His face is gentle and loving and you can tell how deeply He loves the Lord. When he prays it's like a verbal love letter. They ran the administrative side of the camp which is quite a task. The campers love them and we do too!


Hans and Gretchen run a language school to enable Czechs to learn English. It's their passion and their ministry opportunity to spread the gospel.


 I think a few of you might remember these folks? What a blessing to spend time with our beloved friends Johnny and Annette. They are doing well, resting in the grace that covers them daily. Language school is tough and draining and they say as much. However, they are also quick to add that the Lord has been most merciful to them in their learning. It will come. Johnny led wonderful devotionals each morning and Annette was thrown in with the effervescent children. Who had the easier job there? :) It was so so good to see them both. With Johnny and Annette, no time passes between meetings. It's just like you saw them yesterday. I love that.


 Do pray for these dear ones. They need encouragement in the field.


I'm so thankful for these missionaries who answered the call and left all they had behind to follow Christ. Being around them made me realize that there's nothing really different between us.....except for one thing. They aren't super-spiritual  or ultra-theological. They're just obedient. The trip will end and I'll return to Caldwell Mill and take up my mission field. Can I be obedient to go and tell in my daily life?




Monday, August 1, 2011

We interrupt our regular Czech blogging.....

...to bring you a much needed adoption update. Many of you have asked us how our process is coming along and the answer is very well. All glory to God! Sure I have moments when I look at myself in the mirror and wonder if I have what it takes to do this. My reflection very quickly reveals that no, I don't. Because if I did--I wouldn't need Christ. He has to do this.
   Today we had a 70 minute pre-referral phone call with our agency. The purpose of this phone call was to discuss the realities of selecting a child with special needs and the transition process involved in bringing them home. I think I'm just now beginning to understand the extent of brokenness that these children have experienced. They have already suffered more loss and grief in their short little lives than I have known in my 33 years. Parts of their brains have never developed because they've had no one to rock them, cuddle them or hold them consistently. They've never had anyone sing to them or tell them they love them. Thus, they have learned to live from day to day in the fight or flight mode. They don't relax or release serotonin because their body chemistry is wired to expect loss and pain. Everyone they have ever known has abandoned them. Their brains have to be taught how to trust and they push you away just to see if you'll remain by their side. Can you imagine?
  The waiting children have needs deeper than just the emotional. They have physical issues that make them even less desirable to the average person. The children are categorized by physical defect and their medical abnormalities are listed and explained. They have a medical history that you can review and at the end the ultimate question is--do you want this child? Can you love this child flaws and all? It's difficult to scroll through these faces knowing that you cannot take them all.
   There are times when the entire process seems so bizarre..or does it? I mean, was I not born broken by the Fall and in need of restoration also? Doesn't my brain need re-training after the bumps and bruises of life have taught me that no one is trustworthy except my Lord? Isn't it my sin that continually pushes me away from God only to find that He's still in place? He always remains. I could be categorized and labeled too. Under my photograph it would read: selfish, judgmental, jealous, glory-stealing, self-righteous, critical--just to name a few defects. And the question is asked of our Lord: Do you want this child? Can you love this child? And He chose me. He adopted me for life. Suddenly the process seems familiar. I have a model in front of me who has already adopted time and time again--looking at the heart and beginning a new work.
    Tomorrow I speak with our social worker from AGI and she'll begin to look through the database of existing children and find a match for us both in the age range and with the disabilities we are willing to accept. When she's found someone that fits our desires, we'll be given a referral and the opportunity to accept or reject this child. Our greatest prayer is that we'll know if this is the right child for us and that the Lord will match us with the child that He picked for us before the foundation of the world. I don't know how we'll know...but I know we'll know.
 We are about to schedule our first in-house visit with our social worker. I'm a little nervous about that. People tell me to just be myself. THAT'S WHAT MAKES ME NERVOUS! But all the concerns and anxieties and unknowns can be taken to my adopted Father. I can crawl in his lap of unconditional love and talk to Him. Adoption is a beautiful thing.
 We covet your prayers.
Waiting on Our Miracle from China Adoption Ladybug


 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lost in the City of Golden Spires

   Prague. When we finally stepped out of the airport into the fresh, cool air of Prague it was like my body was instantly hydrated. The clammy humidity of the south and those scorching temperatures were left behind and I took in a deep breath of clean, crisp air. Immediately I was caught up in the swirl of Europe, hearing many languages spoken and seeing outfits that left me quizzical. Ah, Europe. Anything goes. It's kind of a relief, really. You're just free to be you. While it's certainly evident that such freedom has led to questionable morality, it is nice, however, to know that no one is looking at you as though you're different. Everyone is different. Whether it's a melting pot, salad, or any other analogy for diversity-- Europe is just made up of different looking, different sounding people. It was refreshing.
   So off we go, the American-looking team with their cameras in tow and their southern drawls trailing, to get the rental van. By now we've been awake for some 6,000 hours so what better time to drive in a foreign country? Kathy assumes the co-pilot position with navigation tools (i.e a google map) in place. I'm quick to note that the traffic signs are different. I don't recognize the symbols. The street and interstate signs are in Czech obviously. Guess what? We speak English in Alabama (well, some derivative of it anyhow). We successfully (miraculously) exit the airport area and find ourselves headed to the hotel in downtown Prague.     
   It gets a little sketchy from there. Karl invents his own meaning for the road signs and we keep going. I'm suddenly thinking about the negative stereotypes of American drivers and I come up with the conclusion that they are unfounded....compared to European drivers. It appears that 80mph is going slowly. Cars zip and turn and zag and swerve leaving only enough space to put a penney between you and other vehicle. Karl is hanging with the big boys, though and we're making progress.
   As we get closer to downtown Prague, the landscape begins to morph into a palatte of red roofs and lush trees. Spires stick up like hands in the air telling us we're heading in the right direction. Everything is so beautifully old and unique. As the city walls close in, the roads get tighter and more uneven with centuries of well-travelled cobblestones. There are still the same amount of maniac cars, but less space!  Now it's kind of like riding on a carousel. We're going around and around, but we don't know how we got on or where we get off. Road construction, one-way roads, and just general unfamiliarity lead to a slight (3 hr) detour, but if you're going to be lost anywhere......Prague is the place. Here's what you see when lost in the city of golden spires.
Not bad. It's like we stepped back in time. I'd forgotten what it was like to look at such amazing architecture and to remember that it is all the handiwork of God! Yes, it was designed by mere man and built with human hands, but God was the master architect of the brains behind the blocks. Stunning.
My favorite thing to see was the beautiful flower boxes cascading absolutely everywhere. Everything grows in this Garden of Eden climate. Building after building had applied the red-lipstick of geranimums like a kiss to an envelope. I couldn't get enough of it.

   We got some excellent directions and were headed in the right direction when we saw the beauty mark of Prague---the Charles's Bridge and Prague Castle. It's gasp-worthy. I so wished my girls had been with me, for it looked like a scene from the fairytales we read at night. Grace had asked that I be on the look-out for unicorns when she heard that there are real castles in the Czech Republic. No unicorns, but a sight to behold none-the-less.

Does this look like Hwy 280? I think not!
  We found our hotel nestled within the nooks and cranies of Prague and settled in. It was only mid-day in Prague so we had to keep going until evening to get our bodies adjusted. We set out on foot exploring. Pinch me! Am I really in Prague and not Publix????????? Am I truly only responsible for myself at this moment in time? Now insert unrealistic notions about mission trips. I'm thinking THIS IS GREAT! :)
   What a gift. Yes, I did get to be selfish these first few days. I got my eyes more widely opened to the world that God created --and I realized that an insignificant speck I am.  I got a break from serving my family and was able to simply behold. I got uniterrupted time with friends and the chance to enjoy deep conversation. What a delight. I got to stand on the ancient cobbled streets of Prague and say, "What a mighty God we serve."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Representing the United States of America.....

    I've never really been part of a team. I didn't play sports as a youngster (and the world is grateful). I've always worked well with others, but being part of a team is different. A level of trust and intimacy exists. Being part of a team calls for sacrifice as you seek to achieve the team goal, and not your own personal agenda.  The team members are key.
 There's no doubt that the Lord put our team together beautifully. I've known all but one on our team for quite some time,. However, a 13 day mission experience allows you to know people differently. Essentially, we were together almost 24 hours per day. Heck, it allowed me to know myself differently!!
Each team member served me in wonderfully different ways and I got to appreciate so many things about these individuals. It was as if God held up a magnifying glass to their character and allowed me to see them more clearly. Here are my impressions:
Karl: Short on words. Long on grins. He led the team with a quiet confidence and I'm so grateful for his leadership and faithful prayer. It's a lot of responsibility to book flights, reserve hotels, reserve a rental car, DRIVE that rental car in a foreign country, account for meals, and all the details that come with managing a seven person team. There's no need to write about our three hour "detour" in Prague because you're gonna hear about it, but even in the most tense of times, Karl was as calm as ever. That's why he's team leader. The fact that my hair was falling out at the root due to stress is the reason why I'm NOT team leader. He's quietly funny and sports a vest with great panache....every single day. You know Mary Poppin's famous carpet bag? Well, Karl too can pull a lamp out of a small zippered vest pocket. Amazing! He was chivalrous in carrying my bags for me (Brenda too) so that my back would endure the trip. In short, much of the trip's smoothness can be attributed to him. He's simply delightful.
Brenda: I learned that Brenda's pure sweetness transfers across the Atlantic Ocean as easily as the Boeing 747 did. She is beautiful in the morning. No lie! She sympathesized with me while I sniffled in the back of the car on the way to the airport and just let me be. She's a mom. She understands. She focuses 100% on you while you're speaking as if you're the most important person in the world at that moment. It's like having your own personal cheerleader. She makes me feel better about how much I have to go to the bathroom because she'll always go with me. She's a rather adventurous eater. Pheasant wouldn't have been my first choice at a restaurant. She handled all those little foreign-language speaking cherubs at camp with the same enthusiasm and love that she uses with our own covenant children. Not everyone can work with children in that way. I so admire her.
Kathy: Having Kathy on this trip made me feel so much better because she too was leaving behind her two children. ( I can't tell you how much I admire Kevin and Rebecca Giadrosich for taking Mina and Sam so that Kathy could serve on this trip. It just goes to show that the body can support missions in many different ways. ) This girl can read a map like James Spann can report the weather. Considering I can barely turn on my Garmin--I was in awe. She is very very bright. Not just book smart, but very resourceful. logical, and practical. I bet she was a girl scout. She has the straightest, whitest teeth of anyone I know...and I'm envious. She packed one little bag for the entire trip. I was envious of that too! She is organized and planned lessons for camp that I wish I had heard. I bet she's a wonderfully imaginative and creative teacher for her young students at home. If you're afraid of flying and you find yourself sitting next to Kathy Webster. Ring your in-flight service button and have your seat changed. Enough said. Lastly, she must be a saint. She managed to room with me for many days and let me hog the mirror.
Geny-Kate: Sweet, vibrant Geny-Kate. She's sort of the symbol of what I once was (as she kept reminding me!) She can read a street-sign while the rest of us are squinting to see a building! She's very perceptive--notices little details that just go completely unnoticed by me. She spent the equivalent of a Czech's annual salary on Kofola. Her energy never runs out and she can function beautifully on very little sleep (again, a reminder of who I am not!) She's a very considerate and thoughtful person. She doesn't snore. She has beautiful hair immediately after washing it and that's just wrong. She's a child magnet. They run to her and love her. However, she'll probably never have children after hearing some of the things I shared when I forgot she was around. Hopefully therapy can undo that. What I love most about GK is her passion for Christ which she wears blazen across her face! The girl loves the Lord and wants to serve Him. I know she's going to do great things for the kingdom and I can't wait to watch and see what the Lord does through her. Thank you for rooming with me, GK. Even though I'll never be as cool as you, I can dream.
Ruth: One of the smartest women I know. She thinks before she speaks and crafts her words beautifully. She doesn't throw language away. She wears dignity and poise like Audrey Hepburn wore that famous black dress. I love the way she carries herself. For such a slight-built woman, I have no idea how she houses such an enormous heart. She loves deeply and she loves well. She's genuine. Her love for the Czech people is so tangible. It's such a beautiful picture of how Christ's love in us creates the ability for us to love others. She's a rock solid friend. She carries dental floss around in her purse and when spinach took up residence in my teeth, I was grateful for her forethought. When she plays the piano it's like a sermon without words. Sharing this trip with her was an enormous gift.
Patti: Another ridiculously smart woman; a good thinker. Everything about Patti is soft like you could just nestle up beside her and rest. She has a beautifully musical voice that I so enjoy listening to. I bet she was wonderful at reading bed-time stories to her children. She has an aire of confidence about her that is in no way arrogant. She looks beautiful in turquoise. Had it not been for her i-phone, my family would never have heard from me. Her level of committment to the Czechs is so admirable. She's been coming on this trip for seven years now and the people love her. I can see why. She's easy to love.
Sandy: I met Sandy for the first time in the Atlanta airport as we hooked up for the main leg of the journey. I believe this is Sandy's fifth year to come on this trip. She comes on her own--driven by a love for the Czech people, but mostly a love for the Lord. She's one of "those" people. Good at absolutely everything she tries. Not just good, but excells at everything she tries. NOT FAIR! She's a history professor so we got bonus information that you're just not going to find in a brochure about Prague. She's very adventurous--doesn't seem intimidated to jump into another country/culture. She travels a great deal. She used to be a professional chef. I feel I can use that to my advantage some time in the future. She plays classical piano in a way that will make you cry...did make me cry. She's fun to watch while playing games. Sandy, what animal were you? I hope to get to know her better. I hope to be with her next year on the same trip.

Thank you, team, for showing yourselves to me as you really are. I was so blessed by being with you all. You all are like family now.

 
 

So long control....for now.

   It wasn't easy walking out the door that morning. My head told me to turn around and run back inside and embrace my children. To stay home and let someone else go. My heart, however, gave action to my feet and I managed to walk out into the sunlight. I knew I was supposed to go and the wondrous thing about having prayed and prayed about a decision--is that you are able to obey with the assurance that God has prepared the way. And oh, how He prepared the way.
   The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach was still present at the airport. It was the feeling of having my fingers forcefully pried open--my grip broken. I've always felt calm and secure when in control (well, when seemingly in control). How humorous that I believe I am controlling my childrens' safety. How egotistical that I believe no one else can run my house or do all I do as efficiently. Anxiety started to swell inside of me and I shouted the "what-ifs" away. Keep walking.
   In Atlanta I began to panic about the miles between myself and my family. "Just tell me we're going to South-Dakota," I humorously chided to Geny-Kate, as if proximity can shield oneself from disaster. Get on the plane! As we took off on the 9 hour flight to Prague, I closed my eyes and began to pray. I acknowledged that I know no control in any area of my life. I repeated Isaiah 26:3, a verse my mother taught me as a little girl and one that has brought me such comfort through many fearful times--
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
Why is it that I have such a difficult time keeping my mind on Him and trusting in His sovereignty? He holds my children's lives. His hand is cupped beneath the belly of the plane as we fly. Nothing happens without His saying so.
    I felt the anxiety melt away and the warmth that comes from trusting a friend overtake me. I sat back and, as I had many times prior to this trip, asked the Lord to protect this team, protect my family, and to use this experience to teach me many wonderful things about Himself. I thought the journey of learning would begin when we reached camp, but it really began the minute I stepped outside of my front door and headed on this faith journey. You see, my world is small and I have created it that way. I drove each and every nail into the comfort zone erected to keep me from trusting. I've built it so high that I can no longer remember what it feels like to peek out and meet people unlike myself. I've built it so thick that it insulates me from feeling dependent on the Lord and vulnerable with Him. I wanted this missions experience as much for myself as for the Czech people. We're really not that different, the Czechs and I--we both think we don't need a Savior. Lord, help our unbelief!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Journey

Refer back, if you would, to my initial post entitled "So you think you can blog?" Apparently, I can't ....at least not consistently anyway. The writing part comes easily for me, but I don't naturally walk around with my camera waiting for a photo op. And so many precious moments slip by, stored in my mind (which is fading everyday) instead of documented forever. I'm going to try and be better about capturing the images of this journey we're on. A journey that is constantly changing paths.
The past year has been up and down. A new house. Brent makes partner at his firm.  A difficult diagnosis of a chronic back problem. A suspicious mammogram. A car accident. Tornadoes strike. The Lord delivers relief to me and I exhale the breath of thankfulness. I'm going to the Czech Republic! Friends marry. Babies are welcomed. Rejoicing. Suffering is still worn on the faces of those around me. Pain is still the reminder that this is not our home. And through it all, the ups and downs, is the strongly rooted person of Christ. He stands with His arms outstretched to the side, acting one day as a buffer and the next as a Father waiting to embrace.
 There's no photograph that can capture the internal change of my heart over the past year. It's still a heart blackened by sin, but softened by a realization of God's mercy and grace to me, His daughter. It's a heart that is beginning to break for the things that break His. It's a heart that is beginning to surrender to what the Lord has for me in life. Another journey begins.
 I've posted before of our desire for more children. It's a desire that will go unfulfilled, at least biologically anyway due to the instability of my back. Another down moment. But the Lord dropped a seed in our hearts months ago and has been cultivating it ever so slowly. The heart that has always said no to adoption is now saying yes. We can never fully understand the Lord's ways and how this seed has come to grow so strong remains a mystery. But here we stand, aching for a child and knowing that adoption is the cure.
 In the recent months, we have applied for a Chinese adoption through All God's Children International adoption agency in Oregon. We are waiting for our official review next week where we will hopefully be approved and be able to move on to our home study. A particular young Chinese beauty of a boy captured our hearts and we were taking steps towards adopting him specifically. However, yesterday we learned that another family was ahead of us in the process and secured him first. Heartbreak. Through the tears, I do feel the Lord working. I absolutely know that He has a plan for us and I'm going to walk towards it trying not to grieve what I had chosen for myself, but joyfully anticipate what He has chosen for me instead.
So journey with us through the journey of adoption. I promise it will be a difficult one as it has already proven to be. But I also promise that God will find a way to bring glory to Himself and isn't that what all the journeys of life are ultimately about? Deep breath. Bring on the ups and downs. Bring on another cuteness!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Benjamin slides into three!

    Well, I'm obviously not going to win "The Most Consistent Blogger" award this year. Life has been consuming lately with a stomach bug (x3), the constant physical therapy appointments, field trips, a mammogram scare, and a very unwelcomed car accident. But God is faithful. I have felt His hand on my back through it all and so I continue to walk through each day, thankful for a God who said He would never leave me nor forsake me. He never has.
    Today I want to share with you a little bit about Ben, our third child who just turned three. When we found out we were pregnant again, I just knew it was a boy. I bought boy clothes and scrolled through male names long before that all-telling ultrasound. It never even entered my mind that it could be a girl. And after two girls, I was ready for trucks, dirt, and noise. I smile when I look back on my life and see how God always proves Himself faithful in delivering to me just what I need. I needed a Ben.
    He came into our family and tipped everything upside down....and if you know me at all, you know that I don't like "upside down". He was a tough baby. He cried a lot and slept very little. It was a full year before that child slept through the night and even longer for me. I found myself really struggling for joy in motherhood because I was just plain exhausted. He ate constantly and when I read in the Bible that the tribe of Benjamin was described as being "ravenous wolves," I smiled that God had led us to that name. I think drinking a 12oz bottle certainly qualifies as being ravenous!! It took a long time for myself to return and for Ben to settle into anything of a predictable baby....but oh when he did. The rewards were great.
 He's just one hundred percent joy and energy....with a really large dose of sweetness thrown in. He's very affectionate and I love that at three years old, he still asks to be rocked before bedtime. He's generous with his hugs and kisses and the girls adore him. Trust me when I say that the feeling is mutual. And yes, he's flushed three bars of soap down the toilet and stuck Wheat Thins in Daddy's dvd player, but those experiences have loosened me up and taught me to laugh (note: it doesn't mean I wasn't MAD at the time). It's hard to imagine that there was ever a time without Ben in our lives.
 For his birthday, we partied with friends at Pump-It-Up, a virtual kid-zone of inflatables where kids (and adults) go wild. We had an awesome time as evidenced by  these pictures.
 Think back to the story of Joseph. Joseph has risen to power despite being sold by his brothers and now there is famine in the land. Having heard that there is grain for sale, Jacob sends out his remaining sons to go purchase some food...all except Benjamin. Benjamin was the youngest of all, the second son of Rachel, Jacob's beloved, and the favorite of his father since he thought Joseph was dead. But when his brothers appear before him, Joseph calls for the presence of Benjamin--wanting to see if they have done to Benjamin what was done to him. They return with Benjamin and it's his sack in which Joseph puts his cup to test if these brothers have infact changed their ways and become honest followers of the Lord. Jacob fears that he will never see his son again and it's Judah who says to old Israel, "I will be a pledge of his safty. From my hand you will require him," (Genesis 49:27). As Russell D. Moore writes in his book Adopted for Life, "Benjamin, after all, didn't return home to Jacob because of his own power. Only the trube of Judah could save him, a tribe that brought forth to us its final son, Our Lord Jesus." It is our life-long prayer that our Benjamin grows up to life in the house of Judah.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What's Your Favorite Color?

  As I write today it is grey and dismal outside. It is colorless and cold. The absence of color strips away my energy and my mood drives downward. I've never really thought about how color infuses all life. Imagine living in a prison cell day after day--colorless walls and faceless people. Yes, the women of the Lovelady Center have made mistakes and yes they should honor the consequences. But when they have fulfilled their punishment they still step out into grey.  How does one find a job as a convicted felon? Without a job, how does one find a place to live or transportation? Prison on the inside. Prison on the outside. The world withholds its color from them and they are destined to fail. Without some kind of post-release program, more than 70% of women will become repeat offenders and return to jail--a life that they know.
 Meeting Jesus is like seeing the color of the world for the very first time. He opens our eyes and reveals Himself to us. He repairs and restores and steadies our feet as we step into the painted world. These women's lives don't begin when they are set free from their literal prison. Their lives begin when they meet Jesus and He sets them free from their total bondage. The LLC brings Jesus to them as they help meet their physical and emotional needs. They want to help them put the color back in their soul....and so did we.
 Many shopping trips and many details later, our team hit the Lovelady Center with paint brushes in hand to paint some color on those walls of change. We had two rooms and two visions: a yellow and navy room and a blue and green room. Day one we painted two coats in each room and began some minor work. It was really day two that the hard work began. We changed light fixtures, and scrubbed showers. We hung towel racks and washed windows. We  dressed beds and moved furniture. We attempted to make a home for these ladies. And here's how it turned out.
 



Boy did I
have fun at Target!
     :)


Although, we worked together, all credit for this room really goes to the lovely Tally Dettling. The girl can put a room together! I think we bought every single thing at Target and spent about $600 per room. Tally made the bulletin boards--don't you just love them? Kids came by while we working and just begged for their room to be done. Broke our hearts! I love those green lamps too--just $19.99. One might appear in my house soon. :)
Room two looked like this and was put together by Meg Decoudres and Amy Henry--equally talented and gorgeous women.  The walls are "Convivial yellow" by Sherwin Williams---a gorgeous, creamy, neutral yellow. The navy blue gives such a fresh pop of color to the room that you can't help but be happy in there!
The furniture was donated to me and with a little elbow grease, oil, and some new knobs--I think it came out wonderfully!
Amazing transformation, right? It just goes to show what a little paint and a little money can really do. We transformed their rooms as they seek to transform their lives. Next, I'll be writing about the women's reactions and what I learned throughout the weekend.  I want to thank all the amazing people who helped during this weekend. We had such fun serving alongside of one another. A special thanks to the Home Depot for donating all the paint and supplies. It was a very generous gift.
Until next time.....

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lovely Ladies

This room belongs to my new friends.
One of the ladies is expecting twins in April!
       Phillipians 2:3-7 says:
 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made him-self nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

 What an amazing weekend. AMAZING! Friday, February 26th kicked off the beginning of our annual Outreach Conference. This year's topic was: adopted (in Christ) the orphan, the gospel, and the church. When I first heard the title, I have to confess that I wasn't all that stirred. I mean, afterall, we're not considering adoption, so it will have little relevance to me. Right? However, I was assured that the contents of the conference would apply to everyone and that I shouldn't miss a single session of it. It was guaranteed to be gooooooood. Fair enough. I never like to miss a party, so I committed to being there. I was, however, instantly excited about a new component to our outreach conference: an outreach project. In a moment of passion, (and insanity) I volunteered to coordinate this project which would consist of doing two room makeovers at the Lovelady Center in the Eastlake area of Birmingham.
  The LLC is a gospel-centered safe house for over 400 women and 90 children who are either convicted felons or have been court ordered to the center because they are in serious legal trouble. Unlike most prison ministries, the LLC allows mothers to have their children with them as they go through the program. The center wants to unite the mothers and children to Christ, and equip them for a successful life together outside of the LLC. It's truly unique.
   I first started going down to the LLC around Christmas time. The book Radical was fresh off the press, and fresh in my heart so I wanted to jump in there and change the lives of these women. Only, when I first toured the facility I was so incredibly discouraged. The number of women and children was overwhelming. Their obvious need was overwhelming. I could go every single day for a year and no one would even notice me! What's the point?

Before shot of sink area.
Still, I went back to serve Christmas dinner and that sea of women was shrunken down to just eight women sitting at a table waiting for my friends and I to serve them. I could do eight. We spent the evening talking with them and getting to know their stories. We spent the evening serving them dinner and making them feel special. That night, they sat tall at the table. It was a great night and a thought-provoking night. My mind was flooded with relevations: most of these women were white; most of these women looked like you and me; most of these women made a few wrong decisions which left them stranded in the wilderness. These women needed Jesus like I need Jesus. I knew I would be going back. I had to go back.
 So, when the outreach project was set to be centered around the LLC (not to mention shopping and spending), I was all over it. I headed down there with a few friends to see the two rooms we would be improving and hopefully meet the ladies who lived there. We were assigned rooms next door to each other with two women in each room. And God being God put one of the women who was at my Christmas table in one of our rooms. She remembered me and her spunky, wild spirit had been indelible on my mind and it was great to reconnect. I couldn't impact 400 women...but maybe, I could impact four. And God being God, ever aware of my pride, used those four women to impact me.
 See below for more "before" pictures and check back to read what God accomplished that weekend.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What's in a Flower?

  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Matthew 26:28-29


  It's been a difficult couple of weeks.  I've wanted to write but I've surrendered to sleep during those times when I can think and write in peace. Many of you know that a year ago I was diagnosed with a congenital defect of my spine. It's called spondylolisthesis which means "vertebrae slip". Literally, one of my vertebra has slipped forward out of place and is pressing down on the nerves to my right leg. It has been a most unwelcome guest in my life and I've done everything in my power to get it to leave. That's just it, isn't it? I'VE done everything in MY power to gain control over the pain and the treatment and the outcome. And where has it gotten me? One year, three months of rehab, two thousand dollars, three epidural blocks, and a cocktail of prescriptions later, I'm in the exact same place physically. Spiritually, I have been altered greatly. This trial has revealed so much about my sin and what I believe about the character of God. Thee Gardener has been doing much pruning and it's painful.
  Outside, I'm beginning to see the heads of bulbs push through the earth with determination. Soon daffodils will trumpet and lilies will hang their heads in shyness, bowing to their creator. I think that flowers are one of God's most wondrous creations. The detail, the delicacy, the vibrancy of color and the fragrance all speak to a God whose creativity and power demands our worship. Why did God go to such effort to infuse beauty and life into something so fleeting? Flowers, after all, wither and die.
  Could we not say the same of us? Our beauty fades and our time will come when the color drains from our petal-like cheeks and we die down into the earth. Are we really worth it?  Am I worth it when my Gardener sees the beauty of His hand suffocated by the thick weeds of sin? Can I reflect back the beauty of His glory?
   These versus in Matthew say, yes. Unequivocally, yes! How much more does my Lord love me than the flowers? He supplies all the needs to the flowers of the field, which pass much more quickly than you or I. Will He not supply all my needs as a child of His, created to think and feel and love Him back? He will. He has clothed me--clothed me in the garments of grace. My Lord has declared me beautiful and I must live in His light if I am to grow and be healthy just as the flowers turn their heads to the rays of the sun for their sustenance.
  Sometimes I forget just how much I am valued--more than the birds of the air or the grasses of the field for He did not create those things to praise Him. Physical pain can speak lies and tell us that we are suffering because of we are of no value. But the Lord who knows the very number of hairs on my head loves me. He created me as I am, crooked back and all, and He will use all things for His glory.
 I'm preaching to myself today, but maybe you too are suffering in some way. Let's remember that His love for us is demonstrated throughout scripture. No garden is without weeds. A gentle, caring Gardener works tirelessly because He believes in the beauty of His creation. When the pruning is complete, we will stand erect before Him and be visible evidence His greatness. I want to be that kind of flower.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Meet Trouble!

 I'm quite certain that every child safety device was created with children like Ben in mind. He is just plain trouble wrapped in a deliciously cute package. That's a double threat.
 He's my only boy after two girls and so I was totally unprepared for his mischievous antics and his destructive actions. He's not malicious. No, not at all. Just....curious.
 So when it came to moving him into a "big boy" bed, I was terrified. I knew it was time, but why would I grant him greater access to this curiosity by removing the barrier of a barred crib? Was I insane? After much discussion, I did concede to the hubby that moving Ben into a bed would certainly help my back (more about that in another post). So, off to the mattress store we went. One twin and a few hundred bucks later, we were equipped with a tangible reminder that our toddler is no longer a baby (insert sobs here).
  He wanted to sleep in the bed immediately. In my distress, I tried to convince him to wait just a little bit longer. "Don't you like your crib?" I asked. What I was really saying was, "Mommy likes you in your crib because you stay put. You sleep well. You aren't growing up if you're in a crib. Why does everything have to change? I need some chocolate!" However, after he kissed the crib and said goodbye to it, I figured it was time to embrace the change (and by embrace, I mean kicking and screaming).


We bought a cute construction quilt from HomeGoods and some sheets, bedskirt, mattress protector, and pillow top mattress pad--everything a boy needs to have a good night's sleep. He LOVED the quilt. The boy is seriously into cars, trucks, diggers, etc... We put it all together and he tried it out with sisters one and two. I think they liked it!
 Ben beamed and declared, "I have a big bed like Gracie and Mon-noo (translation: Molly)" It was love at first sight. But how would the first sleep go? How long would it take him to slink down and start a fire? To try to repel out of the window? To swallow a figurine or flush a stuffed animal down the toilet? HOW LONG?
  Nap time rolled around and I read to him atop his throne and stroked his hair. I explained to him that he must stay in his bed and that getting out was punishable by spanking! I told him that if he stayed in his bed he would get marshmellows when he woke up (I'm pulling out all the stops NOT to have my house burned down). Then I said goodnight. Exit room. Run to baby monitor. Wait. Wait. Wait. Nothing. Silence. Breathing. Sucking. Seriously? That's it? Against my better judgement, I inched back into the room and saw my boy (my big boy)--fast sleep. I wanted to cry. It's not about the bed. It's about acknowledging that this is probably the last baby we're going to have. It's about letting go. Honestly, my heart aches for another baby, and the Lord knows this. We have been praying about having a fourth, but my body fails me daily and I can't confidently say that it would be a wise decision to go against the doctors that have told me my family is complete. So, I leave it in the Lord hands to comfort my grieving heart. He knows the desires of my heart. He knows the state my back is in--He crafted the bones and though defective in the eyes of surgeons and specialists, I am "fearfully and wonderfully made." And so after seven years of continuous use, the crib is broken down and stored. The season is over and we head into another season.
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a -time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace."




Friday, February 4, 2011

It's all about Grace

 February is a really cruel month. The sky is consistently colorless, and the coldness ties you to your house. Signs of spring have not yet broken through. We fight illness. We fight boredom. We just plain fight! But in the midst of all this white stillness, is a sparkling ray of warm sunshine...and her name is Grace Perry.
 Five years ago on February 1st, Grace literally burst onto the scene. Born three weeks early and in a chaotic hour and a half, Grace entered the world just a screaming to be noticed! She had a rocky (or should I say noisy) first four months, but then settled into being a wonderfully calm, sweet baby. She's been that way ever since.
 As our children grow, I can begin to see what their unique gifts are and Grace was born with a special heart which is naturally bent towards helpfulness, and compassion. She notices when you're hurting and she hurts. She's eager to do anything to help even if it's not quite done right. She loves to please. She is particularly sensitive which can sometimes be difficult, but if Brent and I (by way of the Holy Spirit) can properly steer that sensitivity, she could be greatly used to care for God's people. She just knows how to love well.
 God knew I needed a little girl like Grace, and her name reflects the period of our lives that we were (and still are) in when expecting her: astute awareness of God's grace to sinners such as us. It was God's grace that sustained me during a grueling pregnancy and that same grace that delivered her into our arms healthy and happy. Her name also reflects my favorite scripture, "But he said 'My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.' (2 Cor 12:9). I had it stenciled on the wall in her nursery, and as I rocked this weak little infant each night, I was reminded that I too am as weak as newborn babe without the perfect grace of my Lord and Savior.
 At five, she's a typical girl requesting a Sleeping Beauty dress and her annual spaghetti dinner with the family. She loves spaghetti!! It's a treat to watch her slurp and suck those noodles with such innocence and carelessness. The world is perfect to her. We pray that she can hold on to that childlike spirit for a while longer, and that when the reality of the world steals it, she will see the need for a Savior and He will draw near to her.

  Dear Gracie,
Mommy loves you, precious girl. Thank you for the way you allow me to experience the joys of life with you. Thank you for the sweet embraces I receive every day and for the life that bursts forth from you. Realize that the sweetness God put in you is for His purpose and seek ways to use it for His Glory. We're so proud of who you are and excited to walk beside you as you grow. What a joy to be your mother.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Madness

I can't get to the treadmill fast enough tonight.  I need to shed this day. I need to shed the guacamole I ate for dinner! I sigh deeply. It's the kind of sigh that says, "I made it through another day. I made it through the Monday madness". I begin the thud, thud, thud of walking quickly and yet going nowhere. It's nice to just switch off and do something I know I can do--put one foot in front of the other and keep going. I close my eyes. Thud, thud, thud. My mind begins to wonder and I start to catalog the various failures of the past few days. I'm stressed and it's not lessening with the force of my steps. I didn't r.s.v.p. to a birthday  party. I didn't get to cleaning the kitchen. I haven't called that friend and checked on her. I need to run some errands. I should have been more patient with Molly while doing homework. The washing machine is full again. The list goes on. I'm annoyed with myself. I'm tired. I. I. I.
 I spend a lot of time thinking about myself. But this day isn't about me. It's about Him. Every day is about Him. Burdened by the circumstances of life in this world, I've failed to celebrate Jesus today. Elyse Fitzpatrick, in her book Comforts from the Cross encourages us to ponder, "his sinless life, death, resurrection, ascension, and reign, and the sure promise of his return." There's the hope in my day--Christ is one day going to shatter the sky and come and fetch me. My heart is beginning to calm. I need to celebrate the gospel daily otherwise it just all gets too much, doesn't it? Too much I. Thoughts of that day, make me smile and my mind shifts to prayer and praise. Monday has been redeemed.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Resolved to Change Part II


   I love books. They're like little friends standing to attention on my shelves. I know where each one is and when and where I bought each one. I can usually remember when I read a certain title too--what was going on in my life and how the book affected me. They loyally delight me time and time again. To love them is to dog-ear their pages like wrinkles on a face and to gingerly underline their text; to fold the cover back with ease and hold it in my hands. A well worn book is a well loved book. And so, I'm going to blog about books. I'm going to blog a lot about books!
   I owe my love (passion, obsession, fanaticism, idolatry--whatever) of books to my parents. From the earliest age, they read to me and I always remember seeing my mother with a book (still do). I have fond memories of cuddling up in my parents' bed after bath time and my father reading stories and chapter books to my brother and I. There is something melodious and comforting about hearing a man's voice read aloud. Wrapped up in that fairytale is security--a parent taking time to delight their children. I remember most of those stories to this day and when my children ask me to read to them--into our bed they go.
  I confess to you now that I've loved many books much more than the book of all books. I've read many books about the Bible as a substitution for reading the actual Bible. I've read books over and over and have failed to read thee greatest book all the way through even once. I'll push on through a tough read like Pynchon or Dostoevsky, but can't make it past the book of Judges in my yearly reading plan. I liken myself to heroines in a book and dream about living out their adventures. A complicated plot thrills me as I try to figure out the twists and turns and resolutions. I don't meditate on the Word. I remember favorite sentences that were written so beautifully that they've become etched in my mind. I can recall only a smattering of verses by heart and most of the time I get the reference wrong.
    I recently read a wonderful missionary biography called Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Diebler Rose. If you want a book that thrills your soul and reminds you of the power of our Almighty Father than this is the books for you. Darlene, a missionary to New Guinea, is taken as a prisoner of war by the Japanese when World War II breaks out and the Dutch East Indies is occupied. I won't write of the many trials that she endures (YOU read the book), but one of the things that brings her comfort and ultimately sustains her very life is her love of the word and her commitment to memorize it. She writes:
 As a child and young person, I had a driving compulsion to memorize the written Word. In the cell I was grateful now for those days in Vacation Bible School, when I had memorized many single verses, complete chapters, and Psalms, as well as whole books of the Bible. In the years that followed, I reviewed the scriptures often. The Lord fed me with the Living Bread that had been stored against the day when fresh supply was cut off by the loss of my Bible. He brought daily comfort and encouragement-yes, and joy--to my heart through the knowledge of the Word.
Wow. You know, I'm in a war too. A different kind of war, but just as brutal. I'm fighting to raise my children in this morally desolate society. I'm fighting against Satan who tells me lies about myself and the character of my Lord. I'm fighting to keep myself centered in Christ when difficult times come and I feel like God's love is slipping away. I need to be fed with the Living Bread too.
   So, scripture memory is a new commitment I've made to God this year. It doesn't come naturally to me. I'd rather pray --no shocker that talking comes easily for me. I keep reminding myself that I don't have to do this alone. I have the gift of the Holy Spirit and I'm seeking His help. I'm praying that the Lord would fill me with a desire to memorize His word and to hold it in my heart above all else. And now I have to do the work. Whether it's in the carpool line or walking on the treadmill, I'm figuring in time to learn verses written on index cards. I want to arm myself for the battle. I want to equip myself to defend. I want to ready myself to evangelize.
Scripture by Heart: Devotional Practices for Memorizing God's Word Joshua Choonmin Kang encourages this discipline in his book Scripture by Heart- Devotional Practices for Memorizing God's Word. He writes:
It's never too early, and never too late to begin a serious program of Scripture memory with a view to mastering the meaning of the Bible as a whole. Just know that you're not alone in the process. The Spirit plays his part, annointing our spirit, offering us the grace of his teaching.
Thank you, Lord for sending us your Word. Give me a yearning to read your message daily and to commit it to memory that I might be a light for you. Encourage me when I struggle. Give me opportunities to practice. Help me to always cherish your book as thee book. Amen.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Resolved to Change- Part I.

EAT ME! EAT ME!
I'm done with the flaky New Year's Resolutions. Exercise more. Eat better. Brush and floss twice a day (just kidding about that last one, folks). I've had the same resolutions for the past ten years at least. They are no longer resolutions. They are lies. I'm not saying it's bad to exercise. It isn't. And I could surely stand to put down that Daylight Donut (alright, 2 donuts) for a celery stick. But are there commitments that I could make this year which would be more satisfying and more rewarding? I believe there are.
Getting into that pair of over-priced skinny jeans obviously hasn't motivated me yet and I've never actually gotten to that point where a donut repulses me (is that even possible?). So, this year I'm resolving to work on areas of my life where I will reap greater, longer-lasting rewards. I'm starting with spending more focused time with my Lord. Care to join me?
If I'm to be successful in this endeavor, I have to stop making excuses and start telling myself the BIBLICAL truth. I've gotten pretty good at telling myself that God understands when I'm too tired to worship him privately. He knows my days. He knows that I race around like a deranged woman and that much of my day is spent doing His work--so surely, I get a pass. Right? No. Let's tell the truth.
 In his book, Radical, David Platt writes the following about the nice, middle-class American Jesus we've created:
A Jesus who doesn't mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that he receives all our affection. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all he loves us just the way we are. A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who, for that matter wants us to avoid danger altogether. A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream. (p.13).
God wants all of me and He won't settle for less. So, no, He doesn't understand when I have time to talk on the phone, watch tv, and have dinner with friends, and then claim exhaustion when it comes to spending intimate time in communion with Him. He's waiting to be with me. He wants to hear my prayers, my thoughts and fears. I want that too. I feel a constant nudging to spend more time with Him and to just come before Him, stripped down and bare. It's so freeing to say, "Here I am. I'm a mess. I know you love me. I know you will work with me and fashion beauty out of ugly."
I've been walking through some tough stuff this last year and seeing a lot of ugly. I can honestly say that I've never regretted spending time with God. I walk away with such a deep sense of His love for me and a calmness in my heart that assures me that all is well. Now that's time well spent.

Friday, January 21, 2011

So You Think You Can Blog?

Technology and I are just not friends. My cell phone is the cheapy and, therefore, the hopelessly uncool model. I don't know how to text. My friends tell me that I need a Garmin in my life, but I don't know who he/she is. I still can't load my own music onto my Nano (walkman iPod purchased for me by technologically savvy husband). I've never understood where my pictures actually go when they travel through the cord and arrive into the computer. And so now I think I can blog?
I've always been more of a pen and paper kind of girl. There's just something beautifully simple about a new pen and an unblemished piece of paper awaiting my thoughts.
And so, I've rejected the blog over and over again....until now. Let's face reality. As a thirty-something mother to three small children, I can usually only find a crayon and not a pen with which to write. Should I actually find time between the laundry and the lunch making, and the carpool, and the cleaning to sit down before a nice, new notebook--it ends up catching my drool as my face hits the desk in a total surrender to sleep. I am exhausted. But I have thoughts and stories to share. I want to keep a record of these crazy, exhausting days so that when I'm drooling for an entirely different reason, I can transport myself back to these mothering moments. And maybe, just maybe, my kids will want to read it. Maybe, just maybe, you'd like to read along too.
 So, why bother reading? Well, there will be those few high school friends who will want to log on and see if I've gained 100 pounds since 1995. There will be the relatives who are obligated to read a page here or there so we'll have something to talk about at Thanksgiving dinner (yes, Mom, I expect you to read! I'm your daughter for goodness sake!) My close friends will want to keep abreast of the constant excitement that is my life (sarcasm added). Hey, those are pretty good reasons to be honest. However, if you want an excellent reason to read well here it is:  I am a nobody trying to exalt somebody (as missionary Jim Eliot said). My whole life I have loved the Lord. Sometimes I haven't loved Him well. Most times I haven't loved Him above all else. Thankfully, His grip on me has always been tighter and surer than my grip on Him. This blog is about a sinner's struggle to glorify the only One deserving of  exaltation. He is worth reading about.
So I'm jumping in with both feet and looking forward to another year marvelling at God's goodness and faithfulness, and this time I'm going to type it down.  George Mueller writes, "The living God is with us, whose power never fails, whose arm never grows weary, whose wisdom is infinite and whose power is unchanging. Therefore today, tomorrow and next month, as long as life is continued, He will be our helper and friend. Still more, even as He is through all time, so will He be through all eternity." Happy 2011, fellow nobodies.